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Bombastic boss gave insane instructions to sensible sysadmin, with client on speakerphone

When data disappeared, everyone knew exactly where to point the finger

On-Call Hey, hey, it's Friday! Which means weekend frolics aren't far away once you get through this edition of On-Call, The Register's weekly reader-contributed tales of workplace woe.

This week, meet “Craig,” who shared a story of working for a small IT services company that hired a new “team leader”.

Craig used italics because after meeting his new boss he quickly surmised the title “was an entire contradiction, as he was neither.”

One fine day, Craig was given the job of sorting out an email issue at a small family owned legal firm. Craig knew the client well: he'd previously fixed their jammed printers, added new users to the company domain and lots of other mundane stuff.

On this occasion things were a bit more urgent as one of the senior partners had email issues and there was a whiff of data loss in the air. Enter the new team leader, who dispatched Craig to the client with thundered instructions to "JUST GO AND FIX IT!"

Upon arrival, Craig liaised with “Dianne”, a worker at the law firm who helped him when he visited.

With Dianne's help Craig quickly figured out that senior partner's .PST file was corrupted. Craig tried his usual tricks but they didn't work, in part because “Outlook was throwing a hissy fit at every opportunity.” So he called back to base to consult a colleague, but the phone was answered by the new team leader who insisted on taking control of the situation.

At this point, Craig put the call on speaker so that Dianne could hear it.

Both were treated to the new boss suggesting use of a .PST repair tool, which Craig had already tried.

“I don't care, run it again,” was the response, so Craig obeyed and duly reported it had not worked.

“Delete the account and recreate it” was the next instruction, which again was hardly news to Craig and again didn't work.

So the boss got extreme and told Craig to “delete Outlook and Office from the registry.”

Craig didn't like that idea and told the team leader so, while shaking his head at Dianne, making lots of bad-idea motions and telling his boss he felt this was not a sensible course of action.

“Just fucking do what I tell you” was the reply. Which got Dianne smiling as she now appreciated Craig's situation and realised the boss had no idea he was on speaker.

Craig protested that this was a dangerous course of action likely to create further problems in an already-unstable system and endanger the client's data.

To which the team leader responded that Craig was a lowly functionary and should do what he was told by his betters.

So Craig did as he was told, deleting any registry entry that mentioned Outlook while watching Dianne start to take notes about the incident.

Of course the glorious leader's idea didn't work and Craig was soon able to show Dianne that the partner's emails had gone, in all probability forever. Which is a bad look anywhere but even worse at a law firm.

Dianne was furious.

Craig was calm. He whipped out a third-party .PST repair tool he favoured, applied it to the backup of the partner's file he'd made just in case things went pear-shaped, and recovered just about all of the at-risk emails.

“Dianne hailed me as a hero,” Craig recalls. And not long afterwards he was vindicated when the client sent his employer a letter saying that they'd be fired if the new team leader ever had anything to do with their IT again.

Said leader was gone two months later after other clients complained about his skills and service ethic.

“I was glad to see the back of him because he was an utter dickhead,” Craig told us in his email to On-Call.

Has your boss ever asked you to do something dangerous? Write to share your story and it might be your anonymised name getting readers chuckling in a future edition of On-Call. ®

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